Arkansas River? Brown's Canyon-Royal Gorge?

I was planning a tentative run down Bighorn Canyon atleast later this month. I have scoured through many kayaking forums and it seems the water level is still low in April and early May. I was interested in scouting 1st, and running Browns Canyon and possibly even Royal Gorge to Canon City.

Has anyone actually taken this route on a packraft? I am new to Colorado, and almost everyoe I talk to hasn’t heard of a packraft??? hard to imagine given the worldwide youtube videos.

I liked the Arkansas because it is close to Col. Spriongs, comparable to Eagle River from Anchorage??? I can always scout it and see for myself, but I was curious is there is anyone who actually ran this that can give me any heads up to watch out for.

It seems to have some class 3-4 water, but I don’t see any hard turns and water falls, so I believe they are rated for the rocks, and flow volume. Still they seem to be pretty straight shots to paddle through? I rafted te Nenana around Denali, and it had comparable flow but not near as many rocks from what I can see?

Ok, an update if there were any lurkers on this thread; asked a couple local kayakers(that actually heard of packrafting) about running royal gorge in an alpacka and they both said absolutely bad idea this time of year because there is “true class 5”. Not wanting to lose gear this early in the season, any run I do will NOT include Royal Gorge. The rest of the river seems runnable, sans the section called "the numbers’ between Buena Vista and Salida (anyone with experience down this section?). Now that is out of the way, I would be interested in gaining another raftpacker with a car to make the logistics from put-in to take-out simple. If there is anyone interested this is a 2 day float with shuttling rides at both points.

Yesterday I ran Bighorn Sheep Canyon from Coaldale to Pinnacle Rock. It was 3 hour float.

It was running about 1300cfs, and there was plenty of class 3. Most of the class 3 is avoidable except Texas Creek Rapids. I never removed my spray-skirt, and always used a dry-suit in Alaska. However yesterday I decided I to leave both at home. It was apparently a mistake, as I had to dump about ever 8-10 minutes. I took a swim a few times but there was plenty of calm length between rapids to recover. The water wasn’t nearly as cold as AK streams, so leaving the dry-suit was not a bad idea.

If anyone is interested in doing this float, hit me up. I went alone, and parked my bike at the takeout. It was a long bike ride 16 miles back to the put-in to retrieve my car. It wasn’t so bad of a ride, but in a PFD, and a backpack with my raft and oars, the ride took about 90 minutes.

After seeing the potential of Bighorn sheep canyon to swamp an alpaca raft, I decided to stop considering a run down the narrow Royal Gorge. However, if anyone would be interested in running Bighorn down from Pinnacle Rock to Parkdale I would be interested with some portaging in between, and scouting. There is some areas that are rated to class 4 in this section, and alone it might make for a dangerous swim in some boney areas. I didn’t feel like losing any gear this early in the season.

I saw 2 bighorn sheep along the way. Apparently they were tagged with numbers and collars??? I suspect the BLM is keeping an good inventory of these specimens to monitor the health of the environment.

I used to guide on the Arkansas and have run all of those sections a number of times [no pun intended] in larger craft.

Royal Gorge would be out, IMHO. Numbers - maybe, but not at higher water…is fairly continuous

Browns Canyon could work well. Let us know how it goes.

Bring your Tenkara rod.

Thus far on the Ark I’ve been able to run Browns and Fractions, both at ~700cfs. Both were II+ with some easy III’s at most.

Would love to run the Royal Gorge and Numbers, but as yet haven’t been able to find partners to go with.

Flows for the past few weeks have been in the 600’s to 1000, and should stay there another ~week before the melt begins in earnest.

Following a few threads on Mountainbuzz I’ve learned that the Ark will have ~medium flows at least through mid August. Runoff is likely to be BIG mid-May through mid-June.

While there isn’t much in the way of true hike in (or out) packrafting opportunity on the Ark, I could care less. The Royal Gorge and Numbers are great runs to learn solid class IV boating skills that you can then take into the backcountry.

That’s what I’m after at this point. Ping me here if you’d like to join this spring or summer.


MC I’ll be up around Telluride, Ouray, and Salida in a week and will have a few free days if you or anyone else would like to run something on the Ark, we could set up our own shuttle. I have experience paddling up to class III-IV in my packraft. If anyone is interested, send me a PM and we can discuss.


Days I’ll be free are August 15th, 16th, and 17th.

Ping me directly once you have an idea of where in the state you’ll be on those days:

mike dot curiak at gmail

Currently looking like the Ark will hold, as will Taylor Canyon, Gunny Gorge, and maybe (hopefully) Eleven Mile.

MC sorry I did not get in contact with you, you posted after I had gotten on the road and all but forgot about civilization. Wound up running Brown’s solo at 658cfs. I found it easy and tame at that level, I would say only 1 or 2 class III’s. I’d definitely like to hit Ruby/Anthracite next spring if you are game for it.

I ran Browns Canyon in a Denali Llama, early September, 2014. The river was running about 450 cfs. Put in at Fisherman’s Bridge and took out at Stone Bridge. My co-packrafter and I ran everything but Zoom Flume. The first wave looked like it would turn the raft into a Justin taco. Below that, the currents pulling to river right looked like they had my name all over them too. No thanks. Maybe with more water or a couple more years of experience. I took a swim in Twin Falls too. River left means like a foot from the shore. I wish I knew that going into it. Aside from those goof-ups it was a blast. Below is a link to some POV footage I shot on the mellower sections.

I ran it this spring at 700-800cfs, parked at Hecla Junction, paddled across the river to the train tracks and walked up stream 5 or 6 miles to where the rapids begin (right where the train tracks straighten out for a long ways and the mountains part). The benefit to this was I observed every rapid with most having various paddlers going through them so I could study there techniques at least from kyakers. There were only two that look intimidating on appearance, zoom flume which turned out to be easy and some other one a bit down stream. Also there is this neat looking hole (rectangular) that is super sticky. It took about 3hrs. to walk with many stops for observation and a fast 1 hour to get back.

Browns is a great intro to Colorado class III. We’ve run it as low as 500cfs and as high as 3000. It is a fast-moving riot of waves, holes, and wave trains at 3k. Maybe pushing IV- at that level. Swims could get long.

I’ve run Numbers from 300 to 1200. I feel it is easy class III- to III creeking at 300. Feels more like continuous IV- to IV at 1200. Very fast at 1200.

Still haven’t gotten into Royal Gorge – just far enough beyond my normal weekend radius.

I’ve done royal gorge at about 1200. Pushy but recoverable. Sunshine, the standout, is eddy hopable hole dodging at that level. Can’t remember if I’d call anything other than that a IV at that flow. I recall RG being more intimidating than numbers at the same time.